The wait is finally over. The waders are back. Naturally, I made a visit to the mudflats at Bagan Belat in Penang - my first for the season. But the rain clouds that were floating menacingly in the horizon threatened to cut short my day at the 'beach'.
The occasional drizzles that followed were bearable to both birds and birder. The poor lighting made it a challenge to obtain sharp images. Distance and the constant movement of my subjects only made things worse. To get the ball rolling was this Curlew Sandpiper in partial breeding plumage. Extra caution was taken whenever I came across those showing traces of dark colouring on their underparts just in case it was a Dunlin. Now, that would have been a great way to start off wader season...
The tide was a little too low for optimum viewing and most of the waders were feeding at the far end of the mudflats. But the faint aroma of the exposed mud, the sea breeze softly caressing your face, the tantalizing calls of waders filling the vicinity and most of all, the possibility of finding a rarity among the flocks amassed in front of you made me realize just how much I miss this. Anyway, an estimated 700 waders were way beyond the reach of my gear. This time only God knows what else these young Asian Dowitchers (Thanks to Dave for the identification correction. Now I know it has really been too long) had for company out there...
Thankfully, a few did forage near the coastline. These juvenile Lesser Sand-plovers came quite close indeed.
The long upturned bill of the Terek Sandpiper is perfectly adapted for probing into mud to locate and acquire food.
Stints are the smallest wader on the mudflats. The Red-necked Stint is the commonest of them all and this individual in partial breeding plumage showed just how small it was although it was only standing next to a Lesser Sand-plover.
The Common Redshanks are difficult to miss. The size and loud vocals make them one of the most conspicuous waders around.
The sun did come out later in the morning and to help me celebrate this turn of event, a Terek Sandpiper foraged in front of where I have positioned myself.
There is a saying, make hay while the sun shines. In my case (and every other birder's), it is not the sun I have to worry about. It is the hay because my "hay" can (and will) fly off and disappear from sight in a blink of an eye.
Here is the Red-necked Stint in a different light.
Finally, the top performers of the day again - the Lesser Sand-plovers. A little dose of sunshine certainly brought its photos to life. Although no rarities were recorded, the commoners have done a pretty good job of commemorating the arrival of the migratory waders to our shores and made sure that I will be back for more in the months to come.